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Travel blog I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast, but I'm intercontinental and I eat French toast (Beastie Boys) | | | Photos available at www.istockphoto.com/georgeclerk

Melbourne and Around

AUSTRALIA | Sunday, 27 April 2008 | Views [4774] | Comments [5]

Arriving in Australia for the first time, things started well when the beach-babe immigration woman stamped my passport, smiled and said 'see you later' in an enthusiastic Australian voice. Getting from the airport to my city-centre hostel was cheap and easy, then I went out exploring Melbourne.

The word 'beautiful' is also well used. When I bought a new t-shirt, the woman at the till asked me where I was from, and when I replied 'Scotland', she loudly said 'BEEEAUTIFUL!'. I was very pleased, until I heard the next person answer 'Sydney' to the same question (note- Sydney is to Melbegians what Manchester is to Liverpudlians), and she said 'BEEEAUTIFUL!' just as enthusiastically. So I think here it's just a nicer way of saying 'Oh, right'!

The ANZAC (Australia New Zealand Army Corps) memorial - Australia and New Zealand sent a disproportionately high number of troops to the world wars.

The city from the Anzac memorial

The Yarra River

Anyway, it seems there's more to Melbourne than 'Neighbours' - it's a great city, and after just over ten days there it goes straight into my top five cities-in-the-world-I'd-like-to-live-in list. The population is almost 4 million, but it doesn't feel that big, and it has a nice mixture of slick efficiency with trams, sushi restaurants and skyscrapers everywhere, and bohemian artiness with seemingly even more fringes and festival than Edinburgh. Also it's far more multicultural than I'd realised - I even got surveyed by three Chinese schoolchildren about the range of multicultural things to do!

Melbourne has a crazy traffic thing called a 'hook turn' for cars turning right. If you want to turn right, you have to go into the left lane (?!), then - it seems - wait for the split second while the lights are changing, when no cars or trams are coming from either direction, and GO! It looks very strange in action, but it seems to work most of the time.

I went on the hostel pub crawl a few days after arriving, where I heard an Australian utter the 'c' word (convict) for the first time. I'd been warned not to mention it unless I was sure it wouldn't cause offence. Apart from some good live music, the evening entertainment was provided by an American who got sympathetically but firmly dealt with by a group of security guards after deciding to run up a long escalator which was meant for going down.

This is a galah of 'You flaming galah!!' fame.

Halfway through my time there I went on an overnight trip to Phillip Island and Wilson's Promontory, which is the most southerly point on the Aussie mainland. This turned out to be two day trips joined together, with only German Sarah, Aussie Mark and me staying overnight.

Even down in Melbourne, Australia's water shortage problems are well evident, with signs all over about the current restrictions in order, and others encouraging people to save water when showering, brushing teeth etc. All public water features and gardens etc have signs to explain to the everyone that they're not wasting it - reclaimed water is being used.

Near Phillip Island are lots of banners and doom-laden artists impressions along the road side, like the 'megapylons' ones on the A9, warning about the desalination plant that's planned to provide Melbourne with fresh water from the sea. Apparently it is definitely going ahead though.

But Phillip Island is most famous for its 'penguin parade', where every night thousands of little penguins (that's actually what they're called - they're only about 30cms high) swim in to the beach, stand about for a few minutes until there's a big group, then waddle up the shore to their nests, maybe 500 metres inland. In the dusky light all you can see is these drunken looking white bellies swaying left and right, until they waddle up past the spectators to go to bed. The spectators outnumber the penguins, with several huge, dimly lit grandstands facing the sea, making it look like a some kind of standoff between man and penguin.

The next day we did some walking on Wilson's Prom, and saw plenty animals in the wild, including emus, kangaroos, wallabies, and (my fave) wombats...

After a few more days in Melbourne, I joined a great fun three day tour heading towards Adelaide along the Great Ocean Road and up the Grampian Mountains, which make up the southern bit of the Great Dividing Range.

When we stopped for a photo of the coastline, someone spotted a boring looking snake amongst some rubbish in the layby. But it turned out that it was a tiger snake, the first deadly thing I've seen so far in Australia (there are lots of them!), and one of the most deadly snakes in the world. Apparently it's venom contains a lethal mixture of neurotoxins (Notexin), coagulants, haemolysins and myotoxins. Nice!

A bit of eating...

...and a lot of sleeping!

I learned tonnes of interesting things about koalas, but the one that sticks in my mind most is that a koala will be able to eat up to 10 species of eucalyptus. The ones that a koala can eat are not genetically fixed, but depend on their mother - she gets the young to eat something like diarrhoea that she makes specially, and they build up a resistance to the toxins that the tree puts in its leaves to keep the pesky marsupials away!

Some of the twelve apostles

Anyway, a few hours further down the road, our van driver swerved and screeched to a halt on the windy road as a koala took its time crossing, seemingly without a care in the world!

This arch is called London Bridge. Until 1990 it was connected to the mainland, and a few people were looking at it in a storm when one of the arches collapsed, leaving a couple who had climbed over the fences onto the now isolated bit.

The two people had to be rescued by helicopter, and the whole thing became a bit of a media event, but nobody could understand why the stranded couple didn't want any publicity from the media who were eager to tell their story. It turned out the reason was that the couple were married, but not to each other!

Huge gum (eucalyptus) trees from below...

...and above

The Grampians, named by Sir Thomas Mitchell because they reminded him of Scotland's Grampians... really?!!

One of the pink salt-lakes on the way to Adelaide

Crossing the state border to South Australia (the driest state in the driest continent on the planet), we set our clocks back half an hour - a bizarre time zone if you ask me - and were cheerfully told that we'd just become more at risk of death by serial killer than ever before. South Australia apparently leads the world in serial killer deaths per capita!

If I don't make it out of Adelaide, it was great knowing you!!

Tags: grampians, great ocean road, melbourne, phillip island, wilsons prom



Hey Adelaide isn't bad... Why does everyone always pay it out?? It's a great city!!

  Adelaide Lover Oct 12, 2008 6:52 PM


Clearly Melbourne is the one that is screwed up (What's with the 'hook turn'?)

  another Adelaide lover Oct 12, 2008 6:56 PM


Really very nice blog pictures.

If you take my advice i would say there various options available while driving from Adelaide it depends upon how much time you have and what you would like to see. morepopular Great Ocean Road is one of Australia's best road trips that as it passes along the southern coast through towns like Torquay, Lorne and Apollo Bay it around as well as the Twelve Apostles. If you further want to take in Mount Gambier along the way then take the Princes Highway from Adelaide.

  garry riky Feb 11, 2010 8:43 PM


This is the beauty of Australia you captured in pictures,and i would say brilliant job done, some really natural beautiful pictures put on here.

  John Dyane Feb 12, 2010 9:09 PM


To explain the hook turn a little better. To turn right without cutting off the trams a driver will join the left lane of traffic and then pull in front off to the left and stop in front of the cars to his or her left waiting for a green light. When the light turns green they are at the front of the line to go. Simple really and people should stop bagging it unless they know how it works. It makes for a smooth run of traffic and trams

  James Oct 19, 2010 4:10 PM

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